We’ve had a great response to our Big Announcement about transitioning the organization to a non-profit. While this group has already been hard at work behind the scenes, it’s time for you to be formally introduced to the members of RFE’s first board of directors. If you have an idea for how the organization can be better, reach more folks or just be more fun, please reach out to one of us!
We Want to Hear From You
This is your organization. This Board represents you, our members. In the future, sustaining members will be able to nominate and vote on members of the Executive Committee. So, get to know us. Reach out. Say hi and share your ideas. We’d love to hear from you!
– Members of RFE’s Inaugural Board of Directors
Meet the Board
Julie Flanery, President
I’ve been working professionally as a trainer for over 25 years, cutting my teeth on pet classes, dog daycare and behavior cases.
Currently, I’m working with sport dog handlers and teach courses through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I also teach in-person and online lessons, seminars and workshops through my business, Creative Canine LLC. Last year with the help of my friend Teresa Hall, I became a published author of the book The Joy of Heeling!
I’ve had some amazing dogs who have earned titles in a variety of dog sports. But freestyle has my heart. In freestyle and Rally-FrEe we have earned Championships in Heelwork-to-Music and Grand Championships in Freestyle and an Elite Grand Championship-MCL in Rally-FrEe, including several high honors.
I’ve also been a competition freestyle judge since 2003, and have been involved with and supported several freestyle organizations.
I developed the sport of Rally-FrEe In 2012 to help freestylers increase the quality and precision of their performances and provide a more structured way to train in this most complex of sports known as Freestyle. I am proud of its growth, and that it has become a stand-alone sport enjoyed by dog sport enthusiasts all over the world!
I currently compete in both freestyle and Rally-FrEe with my Australian Shepherd/Shih Tzu mix, the phenomenal Phee! You can check out some of the Phun we have at the hashtag #phunwithphee.
My goal as President is to continue to foster the amazing camaraderie that we have built together in RFE and to ensure that through continued member involvement RFE Freestyle and Rally-FrEe continue to grow and flourish!
You can get in touch with Julie through email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Shari Heino, Secretary
Shari brings a legal background and experience with nonprofits to the Board.
She has competed in canine freestyle since 2008, titling with several dogs.
Susan Jones, Treasurer
Susan was introduced to RFE through her freestyle club, The Michigan Freestyle Fanatics. She’s done freestyle with her two Bichon Frise girls since they were puppies. “I love the connection with my dogs as they move around the floor with me whether it be a course or a dance routine,” Susan says.
Both girls have done numerous brace and individual routines. Now Chessey is 9 and Sophie is 8 and they also enjoy AKC rally. “And Chessey is crazy for barn hunt,” Susan adds.
Susan has a finance degree and has worked in financial positions for 26 years. “I want to lend my experience to support this organization that brings joy to so many people,” she says of her goal while serving on the Board.
Beverly Ferguson, Membership Co-Chair
Beverly’s been training dogs since 1976 and has been involved with Musical Freestyle since 2000. She taught at Camp Gone to the Dogs for 23 years and is one of RFE’s first judges and exhibitors. “For the past 30 years, I’ve managed Canine Development at Leader Dogs for the Blind,” shares Beverly. She was also a judge for the World Canine Freestyle Organization (WCFO).
“I’ve been fortunate to have competed in canine freestyle with five dogs so far, many before I started in RFE,” she says. Although Kizmet, her Border Terrier, didn’t compete, she loved to demo anywhere people would cheer for her. Sonic, another of Beverly’s Border Terriers, was the first to complete all of his WCFO proficiency tests and was a Freestyle, Heelwork to Music and Veterans Champion.
Her All American, Vinnie, started life as a feral puppy, but became a great success story. Though he struggled with performance issues in competition, Beverly describes him as an amazing training partner and travel companion. “He accompanied me around the country teaching seminars and thrilling people wherever he went!” Her Labrador Retriever, Rave, also danced pre-RFE. “She was a soft, sweet girl, so her routines reflected that,” she says.
Wink the German Wirehaired Pointer competed in RFE at the Intermediate level, but her shining moment was winning best of breed at Westminster. “Wink’s show career and being titled in eight other sports didn’t leave a lot of time for RFE, but we titled whenever we could,” Beverly says. Her newest addition is 11-week-old Beagle, Pym. Beverly says they plan for him to compete in RFE and are already working on the basics.
When she’s not training or judging, Beverly enjoys making jewelry, playing music, singing, camping with her husband and spending time with family. “I enjoy working with dogs and people and want to help enhance membership to RFE and support our new and current members.” You can get in touch with Beverly via email at email@example.com.
Gay Stahley, Membership Co-Chair
Gay has known Julie since before RFE started. She has more than 45 years of experience owning, breeding, training, judging and showing dogs. And she has even more than that as member and officer of many different organizations, clubs and non-profits. Her work experience includes education, instruction, evaluation, organization and management, making her an asset to the Board and to RFE as a RF and freestyle judge.
Gay currently shares her life with Devon, an almost 14-year-old Tibetan Terrier. Devon holds over 40 titles in various venues, with about half in freestyle. She’s also a Therapy and R.E.A.D Certified Dog. “I’ve had a GSD, a Springer, a Carin Terrier, Miniature Schnauzers, and Kerry Blue Terriers in my life,” Gay says. “And I’ve shown Norwich Terriers and other breeds for friends.” The Kerry Blues were her first freestyle partners.
While she doesn’t currently have any other pets, she says birds (macaws, cockatoos, parakeets, canaries), gerbils and hamsters, fish and turtles, and ferrets, have all been a part of her family. Gay’s been married over 52 years, and has two children and three grandchildren. She loves to travel, cook and do almost any type of arts and crafts. “I’ve been lucky to travel to many different parts of the US and the world, many times because of dog activities,” she says fondly.
“My goal as Membership Co-Chair is to continue to promote and grow the RFE organization into the future.” Gay also says that volunteers with desire, good ideas, and follow through are always welcome. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Marston, Judges Chair
Nancy started competing in RFE after a short time with another freestyle organization. “I liked the way RFE was set up and how responsive the organization was on video competitions,” she recalls. She’s been an RFE exhibitor since 2014 and, in 2021, Nancy and her rescue border collie, Zoe, became one of the handful of teams who’ve earned a coveted Trifecta Grand Championship title.
Zoe was Nancy’s first freestyle dog. “She earned her final Trifecta legs at the age of 15!” says Nancy. “She was a wonderful dance partner and lived to over 16 years old, when we lost her in May of 2022.” Nancy’s current freestyle dog is a Boxer mix named Bea. “Bea is a lot of fun and is teaching me a lot about training!” Nancy says. Bea currently has a Novice RF title with MCL and they’re working on Intermediate InSync and Advanced MF routines.
Nancy has been a Rally-FrEe judge since 2019 and a Musical Freestyle Judge since 2021. She’s been married for 45 years. “My wonderful husband is a musician and he’s my music editing double checker!” she says. “If he can’t hear the edits, I know I did a good job!”
In her role on the Board, Nancy would like to maintain and improve on the consistency of judging across the organization. “I also want to make sure that video competition results continue to be communicated back to competitors in the same timely manner that RFE has been known for.” She’s also looking to recruit new judges into the program. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can email Nancy at email@example.com
Judith Stoodley, Event Chair
Judith had also been competing with a different freestyle organization when instructor and freestyler Diane Balkavich told her that she’d be hosting Julie Flanery in a workshop to introduce a brand new organization. Judith immediately signed up for that and, soon after, for the first-ever live Rally-FrEe competition in the Eastern U.S. “Those two events spurred a small group of enthusiasts in Maine to start a freestyle club so they could get together and video each other for Rally-FrEe competitions,” Judith says. That group became The Dancing Paws of Maine which still has an active membership today and welcomes newcomers.
Judith brings 20 years of experience in freestyle and ten in Rally-FrEe to the board. She’s competed successfully in both sports with four very different dogs, including three RF Grand Champions and one Trifecta Grand Champion. She’s also served behind the scenes as an RFE volunteer for many years and as admin on most of RFE’s Facebook groups. She is a certified RF instructor and a certified judge for RF and MF events, which she’s judged both live and on video.
She currently has three dogs. “They’re wonderful and make me move every day!” she says lovingly. “I’ve lived with seventeen of them over the years, and trained and competed successfully in obedience, tracking, agility, freestyle, rally-free, tricks, and barn hunt, although mostly we just hang out,” she says.
Although dogs have been the only four-legged residents in her home for the past decade, Judith says, “Over the years I’ve shared my home with cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and assorted parrots, and our little stable has housed goats, sheep, chickens, a pig, and equids including donkeys, a pony, a miniature horse, and a half-Arab gelding- though not all at once.”
Judith says her main goal is to help RFE continue to thrive and grow while maintaining the fun and supportive atmosphere that Julie has fostered. “I’d also like to provide members with educational opportunities, as well as competitive and non-competitive events,” she adds.
When not training dogs, judging events or volunteering on other RFE projects, Judith enjoys crafts of various sorts, gardening and reading.
“I have a weird sense of humor,” Judith warns. “Don’t take anything I say personally; usually I’m poking fun at myself.” And she adds that if anyone has a freestyle-related question or issue, just ask because if she can’t answer it, she’ll find someone who can.
Claudine Illg, Education Chair
“Augie brought me to RFE,” says Claudine of her now 8-year-old Aussie. She heard about Rally-FrEe while looking for a positive way to channel Augie’s abundant mental and physical energy. “I was dubious whether ‘just’ walking around a course and doing 15 tricks would tire Augie out,” she laughs. “Boy, was I wrong!” After entering a few RF events, they were introduced to freestyle. That was six years ago. “I now teach, compete and judge to inspire and encourage other teams to get involved, stay involved and experience the same joy that I’ve had through training for and competing in Rally-FrEe and freestyle,” she says.
Claudine shares her life with Augie, Amos, and Astro the cat. Augie holds titles in seven sports and is part of an animal-assisted therapy team that does educational presentations at the Humane Society and SPCA. He earned his RF Grand Champion MCL title last year with perfect scores on 2 of the 5 legs and is currently working on his MF grand champion title. “Amos, two, has been with us for just over a year,” Claudine says. In that time, he’s earned his Novice Skills Test title, two Novice RF, and two Entry MF legs. And, not to be outshined, Astro holds his Novice Trick Title, is a Topsy Turvy award winner and assisted Claudine in earning a perfect score on the teaching exam for her KPA CTP certification.
Claudine brings 30+ years of strategic planning, marketing and communications experience to the board. She’s taught English as a Second Language and American Sign Language and is a graduate of the Diversity and Resiliency Institute’s Anti-Racism Training. In addition to serving on boards for libraries, cultural arts, child welfare and environmental organizations, Claudine is the proud 2021 recipient of the Diane Balkovich Heart of Freestyle Award.
She describes herself as an observant listener and resourceful troubleshooter. “My initial priority as Education Chair is to find out what members value most in terms of programs and resources, then I’ll be putting out a call for interested parties to serve on committees to figure out how best
to deliver meaningful education programs.” In the meantime, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Facebook or Instagram
to share your ideas.
Outside of work, Claudine enjoys hiking with her pups, gardening, reading and dancing. She is also an AKC CGC Evaluator and a member of the Musical Dog Sport Association Board.